Come on an adventure with Jack and follow along as he writes his new book in real time! Here is chapter 13.
by JACK DEY
A whisper from the wilderness calling.
Gathering an empty coffee cup from her desk, Matilda stood and glanced up at the office clock, studying the arms of the elaborate timepiece. Voraciously hungry, it took a few seconds for her realise it was well after 10pm and she was tired out after yet another eighteen-hour day. The two-storey building was the only other presence awake within the neighbourhood and among the limits of the stretching church property. Outside her window, the automatic carpark security lights had failed to launch again, cloaking the sprawling parking lot in an eerie blanket of gloom. Thankfully, the streetlight reflection was strong enough to recognise the silhouette of her small compact faithfully waiting, parked under a weeping willow tree and in a distant bay. There were spaces directly in front of the building, but they were specifically reserved for Pastor Warren, the General, and the christian luminaries who frequented Warren’s office. It was strictly forbidden for anyone–at anytime–other than the apostolic leadership team and their guests to park anywhere other than the spaces allotted against the outer boundaries of the property line. That nearly always meant Matilda was alone and walking in the shadows when she finished her work and needed to leave for home.
Tonight, something was niggling Matilda as if she’d forgotten an important task, and as she placed her mug on the office kitchen sink she picked up a scourer and absentmindedly scrubbed the coffee stain from its throat. Seconds went by as she tortured her thoughts, discounting a mental list of things to do, ticking off each one in her mind. Suddenly the penny dropped. Swallowing a gasp and running for the phone, Matilda’s high heels clacked in panic. Grabbing at the receiver and punching the numbers, Matilda waited anxiously, but the number just rang out and ended with a disconnect.
“Oh, no!” Matilda moaned. This was the last appointment she could afford to neglect, but now the consequences would be horrific and she suspected more than she could handle in her present tired state of mind. Hurriedly shutting off the lights, slamming and locking the office door, Matilda stood in the entry porch, punching in the numbers and activating the church’s elaborate security system. As the electronic minder beeped and swung into action, it deceptively scanned her pupils, knowing exactly who she was and what time she requested its coverage. Activating an unseen purple light, the artificial intelligence checked her personal ID code etched deep into the unknowable parts of her brain, logging an affirmative Wi-Fi message and sending it into the darkest recesses of cyber space.
Fumbling with her keys and searching the surrounds for unfriendly company, Matilda swung open the compact’s tiny door and hurriedly climbed inside. Slamming and locking the driver access, she cranked the engine and when it eventually fired, she switched on the headlights. Taking a massive troubled breath, Matilda puffed her cheeks and released the torrent of anxious air, fully aware that the strife had only just begun. The thirty-minute drive through the suburbs was usually the time she reflected, but tonight there would be no such luxuries as her mind entertained the looming disaster.
Glancing to the touch controls of her car’s audio equipment and registering it was off, she needed something to distract and soothe her scratchy nerves. As an unschooled member of the worship team and with ambitions of singing solo in front of the church, Matilda searched the stack of worship CDs programmed into her machine, keeping one tired eye on the road as she travelled and the other on the display. When Meadow Lark appeared, she selected accept and it cycled until Honey-Lee Cash dropped into the display.
When Honey-Lee sang, the sweet melody infected Matilda’s raw emotions and all the stress began to ebb. Crying and only just managing to resist lifting her hands from the steering wheel in heartfelt worship, Matilda tried to imagine what Honey-Lee’s life would be like and how it’d feel standing in front of a crowded auditorium who’d actually paid a substantial amount of money to hear her voice. She contended that Honey-Lee’s existence wouldn’t be anything like the slave’s existence that Matilda knew. Singing along through a babble of tears, Matilda recalled Warren’s promise to the worship team that Meadow Lark and Honey-Lee Cash were on the agenda for a visit and an outreach event. Unable to contain her excitement and forgetting the approaching storm, this event would be her busiest week of the year and bring a massive boost to the wealthy white sheep’s finances.
When the tracks changed and a contentious song that Cody didn’t like began to play, her stomach knotted and she began to remember the stress about to unload on her. Trying to push the thought from her mind, she enjoyed the zippy tune but Matilda couldn’t identify the phrases, only catching the odd word here and there. This, apparently, was Cody’s biggest concern and he flatly refused to listen to anything that was associated with Meadow Lark or Honey-Lee Cash. Miffed by his unappreciative musical ear and not sure why he wouldn’t approve of ‘worship music’, Matilda decided to listen closer. As Honey-Lee bumped along, the sweet melody distracted Matilda and she still didn’t catch the apparent words that Cody had been offended by. Trying to decipher the phrases, Matilda hit repeat over and over, until she understood what she was singing.
Ascend into worship… ascend into power… be kind to yourself… worship yourself and god will bless your l…i…f…e.
Matilda shook her head in disbelief. “What was wrong with that?!” But the thought of Cody suddenly drew her back from the brink of joy, drowning her pleasure in the approaching gloom and the conflict that surely awaited her at home.
Approaching the dingy suburban house and turning into the driveway, Matilda immediately noticed that Cody’s dark green SUV was missing. Taking a second to steady her nerves, Matilda waited before dowsing the lights and switching off the engine. Securing her own car and clacking up the concrete driveway in her high heels, Matilda unlocked the front door, but everything was dark and quiet. Reaching for the light switch, she stumbled on her words as she called… “C.. CODY?! I’M SORRY!”
But no one answered.
Pastor Warren’s eyes still hadn’t returned to their normal size as he scanned the audience. There had to be at least ten thousand people crammed into the small auditorium, and as he stood at the back while Jolene used the microphone to conclude the ‘Working in the spirit’ conference, Warren tried to imagine the offering uptake and how much it would equate to. When the General exhorted everyone in the audience to take their offerings and hold it up for special prayer and that god was watching each one, Warren almost succumbed to the sweet smell of money and found it difficult not to fall over in its hallowed presence.
Matilda had done a remarkable job, as per usual, but the General, as always, refused to inflate the workers’ heads by allowing any thanks or praise to pass either of the leader’s lips. They were paid to do their job and that was to be enough.
Meadow Lark had played a big part in the evening’s takings, massaging the minds and emotions of the participants and loosening tight fists holding fast to the remunerations that the leadership were entitled to collect. Afterwards, as the takings were measured and divided, then there would be a welcome celebration in the back room where everyone could let down their hair. The risky sacrifices had been worth the trouble, and the conference had gone off without a hitch and had made a small fortune.
When the auditorium finally emptied and the stage lights dimmed, blacking out the great space from floor to ceiling, a rhythm of bare feet echoed across the auditorium carpet following the tiny lights, indicating the aisle and the seat rows hidden in the dark. Then a door opened at the side and a group of shadows quickly drifted through, before closing again.
Hey Jack ! I smell a RAT PACK. !!!!!
Could be, Gwennie.